Go Ahead, Call Me a Provider

We have far bigger problems to solve in medicine

Chadi Nabhan, MD, MBA


January 17, 2020

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Hello. I am Chadi Nabhan, chief medical officer at Aptitude Health. I'm also a hematologist and medical oncologist and an adjunct professor in the College of Pharmacy at the University of South Carolina.

Recently I came across a feud on social media where physicians were upset about being called "providers." Some of them say, "I am not a provider; I am a doctor," as if the term "provider" is an insult or is degrading, a taboo of some kind. I kept reading these threads and I struggled to understand what the pushback was all about. How do you define provider versus physician? What distinguishes them and does it really matter?

So, who is a provider? A provider is someone who is providing something. If you are delivering a healthcare service to a patient, you are essentially providing that healthcare service; you are providing a consultative service to this patient and to this family. There are other providers as well. If you are a respiratory therapist or a physical therapist, you are providing a different type of healthcare service, and thus you are also a provider. If you are a nurse or nurse practitioner, you are a provider.

There seems to be a lot of angst about putting physicians into the same category as other providers. A physician has a higher degree, and I understand that—hey, I'm a physician too. But I think we have bigger fish to fry. We have more problems to resolve in healthcare than spending hours and days and editorials and commentaries—this video included—trying to defend one point or another. We are all providing healthcare services to patients. We are all providers of healthcare. Some are physicians, others are nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, or medical assistants.

If physicians think they can provide adequate healthcare and good outcomes without the help of everyone else I just mentioned, they're foolish because it just doesn't happen that way. We rely on each other. Physicians rely on nurses. Nurses rely on physicians. We both rely on other providers. That's how patients benefit the most—when healthcare providers work together and don't worry about titles, or what I'm going to be called and what the other person is called.

"How dare you call me a provider rather than a doctor?" What does that matter when it comes to a patient? Haven't you seen one of your patients direct their questions to the nurse as opposed to you? They did this because they felt they could ask the nurse and the nurse answered the question. The nurse provided proper service.

I'll probably get a lot of backlash about this. But ultimately, what I care about most is patients. And to serve patients well, we need to realize that all of us are providers of healthcare services to our patients. We provide different services, but still we are providers. I hope we can focus on the bigger topics, on the more important issues that we need to work together to resolve, rather than spending our energy on asking people to never, ever call us providers. Please, call me a provider anytime.

Dr Chadi Nabhan practices hematology and medical oncology in Chicago, Illinois, and is executive vice president and chief medical officer of Aptitude Health.

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